The City as a Shell

“De Stad als Casco” (The City as a Shell) is a city development model based on a bottom-up approach (casco is a shell, a basic structure of a building or body of a ship). Goal is to create a lively city within this casco, in which people take up responsibility for their own environment thus unfolding themselves and their businesses. The manifesto “De Stad als Casco” inspired Eva to lobby at the municipality of Amsterdam for a different approach in city redevelopment: to give more space to outside initiatives in order to give more colour and diversity to neighborhoods. The vision of the city as a ‘casco’ is clearly visible in Eva’s work at the NDSM shipyard and Heesterveld.

According to the vision of the city as a casco, users of space are not seen as passive consumers, but as active partners, in development and in managing houses, neighborhoods and other areas. Users design, finance and (re-)build their own building or working space and have a common responsibility for the surrounding area. This cooperative approach with more than one partner is new and takes leave of the classic model of city development with one developer and one sponsor for the whole area. This way, the model accommodates de diverse needs of all users of the living and working areas, while increasing the involvement of the same users with the building and the immediate vicinity.

Casco is a wide range concept. It is not just the building structure, but involves all sorts of common agreements: the collective financing and development of the carrying structure, distribution of public utilities, arrangements on care facilities, control over and management of the common immediate vicinity. Actually, a housing association is set up, but just for one building.

Although the value of existing buildings is stating point of the city as casco, the importance of change is also recognized. While classic city development seeks ready-made solutions, the city as casco method looks for the advantages of gradual development and value increase.

The city as casco approach has been implemented on several buildings in Amsterdam, which are united in the Guild of industrial buildings at the IJ. The Guild buildings are often difficult to re-use: silo’s warehouses, shipyards. Yet, starting with almost nothing, artists, craftsmen and small cultural entrepreneurs have created their own workplace in these building. These locations are now breeding ground and stage for all sorts of activities in the field of art, design, music, film, architecture and other creative disciplines. They are the starting points of many creative. The most famous representative of the city as casco concept is of course Eva’s Kunststad (Art city) on the NDSM Wharf. The Art City has been designed, developed and financed solely by the end users.